Appeal filed in 'Fatal Vision' murder case
Posted February 19, 2009 5:33 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Attorneys for an Army doctor convicted almost 30 years ago in the slayings of his wife and two daughters at Fort Bragg filed an appeal asking for the case to be sent back to District Court.
The paperwork was filed late Thursday with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in 1979 of the Feb. 17, 1970, murders of his pregnant wife, Collette, and their two daughters, Kimberly and Kristin. He is serving a life sentence in prison at a facility in Cumberland, Md.
MacDonald has maintained his innocence, claiming a group of drug-crazed hippies broke into his home and attacked his family.
The case inspired two books, "Fatal Vision" and "Fatal Justice," and a television miniseries that carried the name of the first book.
MacDonald’s attorney Hart Miles said the appeal could open the door to a new hearing about evidence uncovered since the conviction, including witness statements and particularly DNA evidence.
“What we found was some unsourced hair in very significant places – most significantly under Dr. MacDonald’s youngest daughter’s – Kristen’s – fingernails and also on her bedspread,” Miles said.
Miles says that DNA did not match his client or any other member of his family.
MacDonald remains optimistic that he will one day clear his name, Miles said.
Since his conviction, MacDonald has filed numerous appeals, arguing new evidence and prosecutorial misconduct should allow him to have a new trial.
In November 2008, a federal judge denied a motion by MacDonald’s attorney seeking a new trial on the grounds that MacDonald failed to prove that new evidence he purported to have in the case would have convinced jurors to acquit him.
In 2006, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to give the case another look after a retired U.S. marshal swore in an affidavit that a woman told him she was in MacDonald's Fort Bragg home on the night of the murders. The marshal also said he heard the woman make the same claim to federal prosecutor Jim Blackburn and that Blackburn threatened to indict her for murder if she made the claim on the witness stand.
Blackburn has denied the allegations.
The retired marshal, Jim Britt, died last year.